M&S clothing is an ethical choice
Why we’ve given M&S the thumbs up
Eagle-eyed readers will have seen that the latest M&S clothing ads carry an endorsement from Ethical Consumer tucked away in the small print.
So what exactly is M&S doing that makes it so ethical and why have we taken the decision to endorse the clothing made by one of the UK's biggest retailers?
Well, to begin with, due to the sheer number of clothing companies out there, in our current report on ethical fashion we separated the specialist ethical clothing brands from the mainstream high street names.
The reality is that had they all been on the same table, M&S would be firmly in the middle of the table. As it is they came top of all the high street clothing brands but would have been a poor performing company on an Alternative Clothing table.
However, this isn't to do M&S down. They come out best of the high street clothing brands for a reason: they're making more genuine efforts to improve their supply chain than almost all the other brands on the high street.
Three of the biggest issues currently facing the clothing industry are garment workers’ rights, water pollution from clothes processing factories which has been highlighted by Greenpeace and the use of slave labour in the Uzbek cotton harvest, an issue being tackled by the Cotton Campaign group.
The good news is that M&S is actively addressing all these issues. M&S was the second-highest scorer on our Sourcing Network ratings of action being taken to remove Uzbek cotton from the supply chain.
It's also named by Greenpeace as one of the companies doing most to phase out the use of toxic chemicals in the production of its clothing.
M&S also receives a best rating in our Supply Chain Management category which examines not just a company’s code of conduct, but also the input it receives form labour rights groups, its auditing practices, transparency and the efforts it makes to tackle tricky labour issues in its supply chain.
While M&S has plenty more work to do, credit where credit’s due. For the big unwieldy beast that it is, M&S is making more effort than most to clean up its act.
Rewarding such efforts by choosing M&S clothes over other high street brands has its place in pushing standards upwards (more so if you write, email or Tweet the other companies to let them know).
Without a clear or widespread choice of certified products, there is huge demand from consumers to know what ethical choices are available on the high street. For the last ten years most campaigners in this area have held the line that they are all bad. This discourages those companies that are spending serious money trying to do things better (and there are a few) from making further investments.
It also leaves the 'don't give a damn' companies looking smug. There comes a time when saying – look, although there are still problems everywhere, there is now a real difference in performance between the best and worst. And encouraging those companies that do care to tell people, can get the message out much further than we campaigners ever could.
For the dedicated ethical shopper, we still suggest you spend your cash supporting the small ethical companies in our alternative clothing product guide, whose whole reason for being is to create a less exploitative business model. But for mainstream consumers it is simply no-longer tenable to suggest that the high street companies are all the same.
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